Oleg Kuzmenko

2004

Chief of Party, Healthy Women of Ukraine Program

Oleg joined JSI in 2004 with the Maternal and Infant Health Project.

Oleg joined JSI in 2004 with the Maternal and Infant Health Project.

What did you do before joining JSI?
I was the Executive Director of the Ukrainian Family Planning Association and I was a practicing medical doctor for 10 years in Ukraine. I joined JSI in February 2004 to work on the Maternal and Infant Health project. That was a five-year project that only ended in 2012.

What does the Healthy Women of Ukraine Program do?
Our focus is on family planning and there are three main components to the Healthy Women of Ukraine Program. In the behavior change component we work with the general population including several target groups—women, youth, and men. We work to raise awareness of family planning and modern contraception within these target groups. The second component is the clinical component. Here, we work with health care providers across the spectrum to educate them on modern family planning information and modern contraceptives. By doing this, we are bringing family planning services closer to the general population. The third component is policy. In this component we work with the Ukraine Ministry of Health to produce a modern set of documents to regulate the family planning system in Ukraine.

What aspect of your work inspires you the most?
The feeling I get when I see a new life come into this world.

Oleg posing with his twin sons in 2010.

Oleg posing with his twin sons in 2010.

What do you do in your free time?
I try to spend as much time as possible with my family. I have twin boys who are 17 years old and are about to go off to university. Right now we are in the process of choosing what university they will study at.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
As a doctor, the most challenging aspect was the poor healthcare system in Ukraine and how it functions.

Do you feel your job is now combating that situation? By working at the policy level?
I really feel that some changes are already in place, some are coming, but, unfortunately, these changes are too slow. And I really believe that quick and systemic changes are extremely needed in the nearest future. Otherwise, the Ukrainian healthcare system very quickly will be fully destroyed.

As the Chief of Party for HWUP another challenging part of my job is understanding ways to keep people optimistic when Ukraine—particularly Eastern Ukraine, which is going through so much political unrest. Another challenge I face is how to change the mentality of the general population as well as healthcare workers that contraceptives are safe. There are so many myths, still today, about contraceptives that started during the Soviet occupation and it is quite difficult to eradicate them and get people to understand the reality.

Oleg and his sons, now 17 years old, ring in 2015.

Oleg and his sons, now 17 years old, ring in 2015.

What have you learned most from this job?
I have learned that the projects we work on truly are effective and sustainable. Previously, JSI implemented in Ukraine a project called Together for Health. It was a five year project that ended in 2011 and today you can see the impact the project had. The guidelines, practice, educational materials, and technologies introduced by from Together for Health are all greatly improved from what they used to be. The project worked in 15 of the 27 regions of Ukraine. Healthy Women of Ukraine Project is a continuation of Together for Health and it works in the remaining 12 regions that Together for Health did not reach.

And I’m so proud that currently, in many maternity hospitals across my country, you see the perinatal care system that was introduced by JSI. It is evidence-based and client-oriented which replaced the existing post-Soviet care system… I hope forever.

A Project to Remember